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Saturday 9th November 2002
Update: 31 May 2003:
This has now changed hands, has been renamed and if Saturday lunchtime is anything to go by truly uninspiring (more accurately not just dull but the sort of food that any half competent cook could produce at home !)
A great shame but I wouldn't want anyone to go on the basis of the glowing Desports review (they've retained the phone number).
"To share, or not to share ?" to paraphrase a renowned old Stratfordian........
Having discovered a restaurant that combines fantastic and imaginative food, great value, friendly and efficient service and an unbeatable ambience the decision as to whether or not to share this with a wider audience can be difficult one..............
However, having wrestled with my conscience ;
Desports is a small restaurant on the first floor of a typical Stratford "olde worlde" looking building facing on to the Market Place.
Paul (the chef) and Julie Desport have been building up a tremendous reputation amongst local foodies for several years now and have garnered a few excellent reviews in the national press (The Independent's reviewers in particular).
Having climbed the stairs up to the restaurant (from a cold and rainy Stratford) you are greeted firstly by a warm welcome from either Julie or her staff and then by the bright and cheerful tones of the restaurant decor.
On our latest visit (by my wife & I) we were seated next to one of the windows and bread and aperitifs offered. Paul produces many interestingly flavoured breads (anything from sun dried tomato to black pepper) and this time a pleasantly thyme flavoured bread was presented which perfectly accompanied my glass of German lager and our relaxed perusal of the menu and wine list.
One of the many joys of dining at Deports is the time and space given to you throughout your time there. There is no feeling of being expected to do anything other than relax over the course of an evening or lunchtime. No rushing over menu's, no repeated "are you ready to order" and no questions of "is your meal O.K? after barely a moment of eating!.
As always, the choices on offer made selection a difficult process (but not one to break the bank, 2 Courses are £19.95 and 3 Courses £23.95). However, on to the food, my wife started with a Beetroot and Lemon Risotto whilst I chose a Pork and Chorizo Terrine with Apple, Greengage and Fig Chutney. A bottle of gorgeous New Zealand Esk Valley, Merlot Cabernet, Hawkes Bay 1999 was chosen (along with another beer to accompany my starter!).Alternative starters offered on the night included Smoked Salmon, Crab and Avocado parcel with chives and soured cream, Mussels cooked Thai style with ginger, coriander and chilli or Asian Spiced Vegetable and chickpea fritters with raita and cucumber salad.
The Risotto was a vibrant bright red (I could only describe the colour as beetrooty !) mound of perfectly cooked risotto topped with some deep fried shavings of beetroot which provided a satisfying contrast in texture to the unctuous rice. A definite success and of perfect quantities to act as a starter and not preclude enjoyment of subsequent courses. My terrine was also most attractively presented with two pink and red slices of terrine artfully arranged next to a perfectly moulded mound of green chutney. The terrine combined the meaty texture expected of a pork or meat based terrine with a pleasant spicy kick from the small roses of Chorizo within the slice. All was nicely contrasted by the sweet/sour of the chutney.
On to main courses and the decisions were equally difficult. Choices included Rib-eye Steak with Mustard butter, balsamic tomatoes, big chips and crispy onion rings, Smoked Poached Haddock with spring onion mash, broccoli and creamed blue cheese leeks, Fresh Pasta with roast garlic, artichoke and walnuts with parmesan and olive oil, Pheasant Roasted in it's own juices with honey glazed parsnips, pickled red cabbage and game chips, Salt Cod with wilted spinach, preserved lemons and new potatoes in black pepper , Honey and Thyme Roast Root Vegetables on steamed tomato cous cous with vegetable.
My wife chose the steak and I could not resist the autumnal sounding pheasant. The steak was perfectly cooked (rare requested, and perfectly cooked accordingly) with the mustard butter adding a pleasant piquancy , the tomatoes added a lovely compliment to the meat whilst the crisp but sweet onion rings and architectural pile of ten very very big chips all built a modern twist on an old standard.
My pheasant was served with the moist and delicate breasts forming a base for the darker roasted boned leg all lying next to a small dome of sweet and tart red cabbage and the immaculately roasted parsnips and a small pile of feather light game chips. A perfect remedy for the weather and both courses perfectly complimented by the full bodied but rounded wine.
The relaxing tone was maintained by the pause offered after the main courses during which we pondered the dessert list. More selection problems!
Options included Caramelised Bananas, Mango and Passion Fruit with organic banana ice cream and coconut milk syrup, Chocolate Pudding with hazelnut & fudge sauce and cinnamon ice cream, Pear and Vanilla Beignets rolled in cinnamon sugar with golden syrup and Cotswold clotted cream, Pannacotta with almond sable biscuit a very popular "Assiette of desserts for two people" which gives a taste of all of the above or finally Vacherin, Yorkshire Blue and Smoked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese with biscuits, grapes and celery.
My wife chose the Beignets which were light, fragrant, crispy and extremely moreish whilst following on from the pheasant I retreated in to tradition and selected the cheese. The vacherin was perfectly "a point", the smoked Lincolnshire Poacher lightly smoked with a lovely buttery taste whilst the Yorkshire Blue was a piquant blue akin to a mountain Gorgonzola. The cheese was perfectly ripe, the presentation was attractive but not arty and a top up of biscuits offered as soon as I got to my last biscuit.
Following all of the above we rounded the evening off with Double Espresso's which are served with Paul's wonderful Petit Fours (small Brandy Snaps, the lightest shortbread imaginable and smooth but pleasantly dark & bitter chocolate truffles).
All in all, another thoroughly enjoyable evening at one of the gems of the town and no more suitable conclusion than the words of the Bard from me to Desports;
"I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks" Twelfth N, Act iii, Sc.3